Take that upgrade, even if it means ditching your partner in economy

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Welcome to The Upgrade, By The Way’s series on travel hacks and hot takes. See how to submit here.

Flying economy can be a nightmare. There are few, if any, ways around this. When you’re in the air as much as I am, you have to scratch and claw for every ounce of satisfaction — not to mention humane treatment.

With my frequent flier status on our side, even my traveling companion can benefit. We can enter the lounge together and enjoy a few drinks in a comfortable environment; we can check our bags for free; and we can board the plane early, securing invaluable overhead space. Sometimes, we can even both be upgraded to first or business class. But if there’s one seat available and I’m the next in the line, I’m sorry, but I’m taking the seat and leaving you behind in economy.

To the people who willingly chose the middle seat: We have questions

I’ll send you back a freebie drink or two if I can — I’m not a monster — but if there’s an opportunity for a lie-flat business bed, I’m jumping on it without hesitation and putting myself down for a night’s rest. See, I had to earn that airline status, and there’s no easy way to do it. I log hundreds of thousands of flight miles every year to climb that ladder. It’s my blood, sweat and tears (okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration), which has me rocking double Delta Diamond and United 1K status, and I very much intend on using the upgrades I’ve amassed.

I’m not saying I won’t try to get you upgraded, too, assuming we’re booked on the same reservation. I love the idea of us enjoying the comparative pleasure cruise together, ignoring each other while we sleep in peace. But it’s not an all-or-nothing scenario. If you’re below the cut list, well, the fickle gods of airline travel have spoken.

After spending a staggering amount of time battling to get ahead of DOE, J. in the upgrade list, you want me to surrender those hard-fought gains so we can eat our complimentary stroopwafels side-by-side? It stands against everything I’ve worked for, and it’s not going to happen. I’ve struggled through far too many long, sleepless nights trapped in an upright position in 37F for me to turn down a business bed in 3A and a glass of welcome Champagne.

This airline booking hack is dividing the internet

I empathize with your discomfort, I truly do. But that’s all the more reason I should alleviate my own instead of suffering beside you. There’s no honor in being miserable together for the sake of it.

If the roles were reversed, and your superior status looked down on my silver or gold, I’d expect you to do the same. No, I wouldn’t be happy about being left behind, either. You’d probably catch a bit of a glare when we landed the next morning, as I attempted in vain to uncrank my neck while witnessing your chipper, go-get-’em attitude. But I’d understand it. Never let DOE, J. win.

Jake Emen is a freelance travel, food and drinks journalist. Follow him on Twitter:@ManTalkFood.

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